The Bermuda government has extended COVID-19 restrictions through the holidays after a surge in coronavirus cases continued to impact the island.
The restrictions – including an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and orders for bars and restaurants to close at 10 p.m. – were scheduled to end on December 22, but will now continue until January 4, officials announced.
Premier David Burt reintroduced the curfew last week after the island logged 86 new cases of the coronavirus in six days.
Burt told Thursday night’s media briefing that some minor changes to the curfew may be announced next week, but the extension was needed to slow the “frightening“ spike in cases, now numbering 500.
He said the measures introduced to slow the spread of infection were working and, although the number of new cases was still high, the figure had started to fall again.
Burt also announced that unemployment benefit payments for those affected by the restrictions will also be extended for a further two weeks.
Finance Minister Curtis Dickinson said earlier that 50 staff at bars, nightclubs and members’ clubs who lost their jobs because of the restrictions should get their benefits from the government this week. He said a further 110 applications for help were still being assessed.
Dickinson said the emergency payments would be for a maximum of US$500 a week. At the height of the pandemic, the government paid out close to $60 million in benefits to 10,000 unemployed workers, including 2,000 expatriates.
National Security Minister Renee Ming said there were confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in the prison service, but could not say how many there were and declined to say if they were in the prisons themselves.
Minister of Health Kim Wilson said 12 new cases were among 1,397 new test results that came back to health officials on Thursday.
One was the result of on-island transmission from a known contact and the other 11 were under investigation, bringing the total under investigation to 88, up from 81 on Wednesday.
The results brought the number of confirmed cases in Bermuda to 497 — up from 222 less than five weeks ago — and the number of active cases to 227.
Three patients are in hospital, but none is in critical condition.
A total of 261 patients have recovered and nine have died — the last in May.
Wilson said that among the more recent cases, 25 patients were aged 18 or younger.
Another positive case involved an unnamed member of the crew of a British Airways flight from London that brought new Governor Rena Lalgie to the island.